In an article for the New Statesman this morning Jason Cowley, the magazine’s editor, writes:
“Miliband is very much an old-style Hampstead socialist. He doesn’t really understand the lower middle class or material aspiration. He doesn’t understand Essex Man or Woman. Politics for him must seem at times like an extended PPE seminar: elevated talk about political economy and the good society.
“At present, he and Labour seem trapped. His MPs sense it and the polls reflect it. Ukip is attracting support in the party’s old working-class northern English heartlands and winning converts in key Home Counties swing seats that Labour would once have hoped to win. In Scotland the SNP has become the natural party of government.”
For the Labour leader to be attacked in the New Statesman, of all places, for being too much of a Hampstead intellectual to be in touch with the ambitions of the British people is pretty damning.
The magazine may only have a circulation of 30,000. But there is symbolic significance in Mr Miliband being abandoned by a journal that had previously been supportive.
When attacked by the Daily Mail or The Sun this can be claimed as badge of honour. Gone is the unseemly Tony Blair/Alastair Campbell era of the Labour Party prostrating itself before Tory press barons. People like Lord Kinnock will have a sense of relief. So a virtue could be made of hostile relations having been restored. It could be used to energise and enthuse the core vote.
With the New Statesman, the strategy of shooting the messenger is more problematic.
It is yet another example of Mr Miliband running out of excuses.
I remember being on the BBC Radio 4 programme, the Westminster Hour, just after last Christmas. We were looking back at 2013. The Editor of Labour List, Mark Ferguson, was another guest. Mr Ferguson said that in every single opinion poll that year Labour had been ahead. It was a powerful point – there had been a very large number of polls and Mr Ferguson’s claim was quite true. However that defence of Mr Miliband is no longer available. The polls now fluctuate between Labour and the Conservatives being a point or two ahead.
Another excuse that used to be made by Labour loyalists was that Mr Miliband’s poor personal ratings would improve once the public got to know him better. Yet increased familiarity has bred deeper contempt.
Then there was the argument that real elections, rather than polls, should be the measure. But here the key tests for the main opposition party since 2010 have been failed.
Labour lost the elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2011 by a substantial margin – they did far worse than in 2007. Labour lost the election for Mayor of London in 2012 – in a city where they had won most of the votes in the 2010 General Election. Labour lost the 2013 Euro Elections.
In by-elections they have made no net gains – losing a seat to Respect in Bradford West and gaining one from the Conservatives in Corby. They were lucky to hang on in Heywood and Middleton with a majority of under a thousand.
The Conservatives remain the largest party in local government.
If judged in absolute terms, rather than relative to the Conservatives, the position for Labour is dire.
In some ways Mr Miliband has done well to maintain as much Party unity as he has. This may be due to a lack of alternatives who would be willing to take on the job and would be likely to do much better. Ed Balls, for instance, has problems with his own poll ratings.
It could get worse. The New Statesman is full of quotes from anonymous Labour MPs and Shadow Ministers.
How long before more of them decide to go on the record?